Old Fashioned Penuche Fudge Recipe

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This old fashioned penuche fudge recipe has been a family favorite for over 50 years.  It's a traditional fudge recipe, made with brown sugar and heavy cream, and has an amazing flavor a little bit like caramel, and a lot like southern pralines.   

Squares of golden brown penuche fudge on a two tier, white serving tray, with text overlay reading "Old Fashioned Penuche Fudge Recipe."

It's the first Monday of the month, and that means it's time for the Taste Creations Blog Hop.   This month we're making Christmas candies, and I knew it was time to share my family's favorite penuche fudge recipe.

What is Penuche?

Penuche is a soft, fudge-like candy made with a traditional fudge-making technique.  It is made with brown sugar, cream, salt, butter, vanilla, and clear Karo syrup (that's my pastry-chef mother's addition to the classic recipe).  The flavor comes from the caramelized brown sugar (white sugar is never used in penuche) and vanilla.  The word penuche comes from the Italian panucci.  This candy is also sometimes spelled penoche.  Penuche can be eaten as a candy, or used as penuche frosting on a sheet cake.  In the southern United States, it is sometimes called Brown Sugar Fudge Candy or Creamy Praline Fudge. 

Pieces of homemade penuche fudge stacked on a white plate, with evergreen and holly branches in the background.

How to Make Old Fashioned Penuche Fudge

Candy making is a precise endeavor, and it's worth it to have the right equipment to make your job easier.  Before we jump into the penuche recipe, I'm going to share a few items that I think make fudge-making (or any candy-making) a LOT easier.

Helpful Special Equipment for Making Fudge:

  • Candy Thermometer: It is critical to cook candy recipes to the precise correct temperature, and a candy thermometer is extremely helpful in getting this right.  There are some old-fashioned ways to estimate if the mixture is at the right temperature, but it's SO much easier just knowing that you've reached the right stage when using a candy thermometer.
  • A Square Silicone Cake Pan: This is my secret weapon for making homemade fudge and caramels.  The candies--no matter how sticky--pop right out!  No lining the tray with wax paper or parchment paper!  No buttering pans!  It makes candy-making so much easier.

Ingredients for Old Fashioned Penuche Fudge Recipe on a white wooden surface.

Ingredients for Penuche Fudge Recipe

  • 4 cups of packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups whipping cream (can also use half-and-half)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter (2 ounces, or half a stick)
  • 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup

Ingredients for Penuche Fudge in a large saucepan.

First, combine the light-brown sugar, cream, salt, and Karo syrup. 

Substitutions that Work in this Penuche Recipe:

  • You can use all cream (like I did), or half-and-half, or one cup milk (whole milk) and one cup of cream. 
  • you can use salted butter instead of unsalted butter
  • you can use dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar (the color will be a little darker, and the flavor a little more intense).
  • DO NOT USE margarine instead of butter.  The extra water content in the margarine will interfere with the fudge setting.

Why use Corn Syrup in a Fudge Recipe?

Original, old-fashioned fudge recipes don't use corn syrup, but if you use two different sugars with differing intrinsic crystal structures (like the granulated sugar and the corn syrup do), crystallization is inhibited.  In other words, when you combine sugars, the fudge is much less prone to sugaring, which is when sugar crystals form and the candy has a gritty mouth-feel.  You want your fudge to be creamy and smooth.  The addition of just a little bit of Karo syrup acts as an interfering agent.  The long chains of glucose molecules in corn syrup help to prevent the sucrose molecules in the brown sugar from re-forming (which is what sugar crystals want to do!).  You don't have to use corn syrup in your fudge recipes, but using it will make the fudge turn out better more consistently.

Penuche fudge ingredients stirred together with a black spatula in a large saucepan sitting on a white wooden surface.

Stir these ingredients together until the sugar crystals dissolve.

Use a damp, clean kitchen cloth or a pastry brush to clean the sides of the pot of any residual sugar crystals.  If you leave any sugar crystals on the side of the pot, it can act as a seed crystal, setting off a chain reaction and making your fudge grainy and sugared.

Penuche fudge mixture cooking in a saucepan, the mixture just beginning to bubble at the edges of the pan.

Heat the sugar mixture in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.  DO NOT STIR the mixture at all at this stage!  If any sugar crystals form on the sides of the pan, use a pastry brush and water to wash it away.  As the temperature rises, the bubbles will do all the stirring you need.  But if you stir the mixture at this stage, you will create sugar crystals, and you'll end up with a grainy, gritty fudge.

Candy thermometer in saucepan cooking penuche fudge to soft ball stage, with a candy thermometer clipped to the side of the pan to measure the temperature.

Cook without stirring until the mixture reaches the proper temperature: soft ball stage, or 235 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove from heat, and stir in the four tablespoons butter and vanilla, just until combined.

Let it cool until it reaches between 110 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit.  Then beat it vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens and loses its glossiness.  

Penuche fudge setting in a red silicone pan sitting on a white marble counter.

Pour mixture into your silicone pan or prepared pan, and let it set.  It takes about three hours for fudge to set at room temperature.

Can Fudge be Set in the Fridge or Freezer?

Yes, you can speed up the fudge setting process by placing the fudge in either the refrigerator or the freezer.  It will set in about 2 hours in the fridge, and in about one hour in the freezer.

Penuche Fudge being cut into pieces with a large knife on a wooden cutting board.

After the fudge has set, remove the candy from the pan.  If you're using that magical silicone pan, it's as easy as turning it over on a cutting board!  (I really can't emphasize how much I love using silicone pans for candy-making.). Cut into bite-sized pieces.  

Two tiered white tray piled with old fashioned penuche fudge.

The fudge is rich and delicious, so cut into pretty small pieces, about one inch square.

Penuche Fudge on a two tiered white serving tray.

How to Store Penuche Fudge

You have several options for storing your homemade fudge:

  • You can store fudge at room temperature for up to three weeks.  Wrap in waxed paper, or even let it sit out on a Christmas cookie tray.  If the fudge sits out uncovered, the outer shell will dry out a bit, but it will remain smooth and creamy when you bite in to it.
  • You can freeze fudge if you want to use it past the three week mark.  Wrap the slab of fudge in plastic wrap and place in an airtight container.  Freeze for up to three months.
  • DO NOT STORE IN THE FRIDGE!  Fudge dries out and gets very crumbly when stored in the refrigerator.  For best results, either store at room temperature or the freezer.

Old fashioned penuche fudge on a two tier, white serving dish.  Fresh holly and evergreen branches and a red and white checked cloth surround the tray.

I think you'll love this amazing homemade fudge, with its golden color, caramel flavors, and hint of vanilla, but if you want other fudge recipes, I'm happy to oblige:

Printable Old Fashioned Penuche Fudge Recipe

Want a one page, printable, PDF version of this Penuche fudge recipe?  Click on the image below to print directly or download this recipe to your device.

Navigational image leading reader to printable, one page version of the old fashioned penuche fudge recipe.

Other Homemade Candy Recipes from the Taste Creations Blog Hop

Collage of homemade christmas candy photos, with text overlay reading "4 Fantastic Christmas Candy Recipes."

Be sure to check out the other delicious homemade candy recipes from my fellow bloggers in the Taste Creations Blog Hop:

Our Good Life: Quick and Easy Gingerbread Fudge

Mom Home Guide: Homemade Peanut Brittle

Breads and Sweets: Homemade Baileys Filled Chocolates

Other Homemade Candy Recipes You Might Like:

Navigational image leading reader to English Toffee Recipe.

Navigational image leading reader to homemade salted caramels recipe.

Navigational image leading reader to dark chocolate raspberry truffles recipe.


Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido

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